Should Christians pray the imprecatory psalms (the prayers for the destruction of enemies)?

Q. Should Christians pray the imprecatory psalms?

Let me say first that I think “praying the psalms” (that is, making the psalms in the Bible our own prayers) is a good practice. However, people who do this are often uncomfortable praying the so-called imprecatory psalms, in which the psalmists ask God to destroy their enemies.

I devote an entire lesson to the imprecatory psalms in my study guide to the Psalms. It is Lesson 10, on pages 59–63. You can read the study guide online or down load it at this link. I hope the lesson will give you a perspective on the imprecatory psalms that will help you decide whether to include them in your devotional practice of “praying the psalms.”

How do Christian people trace their heritage from Abraham?

Q. Hello, thanks for this blog, I am still confused about the genealogy in the Bible,
we know that Jewish people are linked with Judah (Yahuda)
and Israelis (the twelve sons) are linked with Israel (Jacob)
and Ishmaelites (the Arabs) linked with Ishmael (Ismail)
all those are the sons of Abraham biologically
How do Christian people link themselves with the Abrahamic heritage?

Thank you for your question. Christians do not trace their lineage from Abraham through physical descent, but rather through faith. As the New Testament says, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ so those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.'” Paul says a little bit later in that letter, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Paul says similarly in his letter to the Romans that Abraham is “the ancestor of all who … follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had.”

John the Baptist said similarly that what mattered was faith, expressed through repentance and confession. He told some people who thought they didn’t need to be baptized, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” In other words, it was not physical descent that mattered, but genuine faith.

So Christians understand from the New Testament that if they trust in God for forgiveness and new life, they are spiritual descendants of Abraham, who set the example of that kind of trust in God.

Are the people who removed Enoch, Jubilees, etc. from the Bible in trouble?

Q. In the book of Revelation 22:18 it mentions the adding or replacing of things written in the Bible as big trouble. The books that where taken out of the Old Testament; like the Jubilees, Enoch, Gospel of Mary, etc., are these people who removed these books in big trouble?

Actually, the books you list were never “in” the Bible, in the way I would understand that, so they were never taken “out” either.

The canon of Scripture—that is, what books the Bible contains, as far as Christians are concerned—was determined over the course of several centuries. Eventually a consensus emerged about the 66 books that all Christians accept as divinely inspired and fully authoritative. Some specific groups of Christians accept further books as useful and edifying, and in some cases they include them within their Bibles, but in every case they make some distinction between them and the other 66 books. (See this post: Do different Christian communities really consider different books Scriptural?)

As for the books you list, Jubilees and Enoch are accepted as Scriptural by one small part of the Christian church. The Gospel of Mary (which would relate to the New Testament rather than the Old Testament) is not accepted as Scriptural by any part of the Christian church. So as I said, these books, and others like them, were never really “in,” so no one is in trouble for taking them “out.”

For more about the issue you are asking about, see these posts:

Can more books be added to the Bible?

Why were some books removed from the Bible and is it a sin to read them?

Are these books missing from the Bible?

Is the earth only 6,000 years old?

Q. Two questions: (1) Where would I find the animals that were not taken onto the Ark with Noah? (2) Is there some place in the Bible that shows all the years of man, from Adam to today? While scientist have everything at billions of years old, I heard that we have only been here around 6,000 years and it is somewhere in the Bible, can you tell me where to find the truth?

Your questions reflect the very large issue of how faith and reason, or religion and science, relate to one another. They relate to one another in a complex way, and so I cannot answer your questions simply by telling you to look at one place or another in the Bible. Rather, I need to encourage you to come to understand faith and reason as two complementary ways of understanding the world that God created. I have co-authored a book about this that is now available online. It is called Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology, and Biblical Interpretation, and you can read it starting here. Below is an excerpt from the introduction to the book that I think may describe your own situation. So I hope that the book will be helpful to you as you pursue your questions. Thank you.


Many believing Christians have experienced crises of faith and personal rejections when they have chosen to accept an account of origins that is based on reasoned interpretation of centuries of scientific observation because this account does not coincide with a literal interpretation of Genesis.

These crises and rejections do not have to occur. The two approaches to knowledge characteristic of faith and reason (or religion and science) can be reconciled and used in a complementary way. But unnecessary conflicts nevertheless arise because outspoken proponents of both approaches deny their inherent limitations and extended their claims into the proper realm of the other source of knowledge. This creates an “either/or” or “forced choice” situation in which one must either accept an entirely naturalistic account of origins or else effectively deny that what our eyes see and our instruments measure is anything more than illusion. Neither of these choices will ultimately satisfy an honest intellectual inquirer.

There is a middle position, however. Faith and reason are each qualified to make their own contributions to our understanding of our origins, purpose and destiny, and these contributions can be recognized as complementary. … The two authors of this book have traveled this way, and wish to share with their fellow travelers how they have struggled and what they have learned.

How old was King David when he died?

Q. Is there any record as to how old David, King of Israel, was when he died? 1 Kings just says, “He died at a good old age.” Thank you.

Yes, there is a record. 2 Samuel 5:4 says, “David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.” This means that David was seventy years old when he died.

Why did God reveal future events to Nebuchadnezzar?

Q. Why did God reveal future events to Nebuchadnezzar?

Here is what I say about that in my study guide to Daniel and Revelation. (You can read the guide online or download it for free at this link.)

– – – – –

(p. 28, about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue) Nebuchadnezzar was wondering about the future of his empire. (Daniel notes, “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come.”) The take-home message of the dream is that his empire isn’t going to last forever. In fact, in the foreseeable future it will be overrun by a rival empire. Daniel’s task, as God’s representative, is to challenge Nebuchadnezzar to accept this fact and humble himself before the “Lord of kings.”

(p. 30, about the statue that Nebuchadnezzar built) God gave Nebuchadnezzar an inspired dream about a statue made of different materials. The interpretation was that the Babylonian empire (the statue’s head of gold) wouldn’t last forever; instead, it would ultimately be replaced by a kingdom that the “God of heaven” would set up. When Nebuchadnezzar first heard Daniel interpret his dream, he was so amazed that he “fell prostrate before” him and “paid him honor.” But now he’s had a change of heart. He makes a statue entirely out of gold, to assert—in the language of the dream, and directly contradicting God’s word—that his empire will last forever. He gathers provincial officials from all over his empire and demands that they “fall down” and “worship” this statue. (These are exactly the same Aramaic words used to describe what Nebuchadnezzar did for Daniel; the king wants his empire to be on the receiving end this time!)

(pp. 31–32, same episode) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tell the king that if their God is able to deliver them, he will, but that even if he doesn’t, they won’t serve the Babylonian gods or worship the statue. Their obedience wasn’t conditional on their deliverance. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes this and praises them for being “willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” … In Daniel’s song of praise in the previous story, he said that “wisdom and power” belonged to God. When Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the king acknowledged God as a “revealer of mysteries”—a God of wisdom. Now he acknowledges that this God has “rescued his servants” and must also be a God of power. He forbids anyone in his empire to say anything against “the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.”

– – – – –

So, to answer your question, God revealed future things to Nebuchadnezzar to get him to realize that his empire would not last forever so that he would humble himself and acknowledge God as the true ruler of the world.

What is God’s full armor, according to Ephesians?

Q. What is God’s full armor, according to Ephesians?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the “full armor of God” as follows.

The “belt of truth.” In biblical times, soldiers would gather up their robes and fasten them with a belt so that they could move freely in battle. So we can think of speaking the truth and proclaiming the true message of God as something that allows us to work unencumbered for God, without having to think about whether we are “sticking to the story” that we have made up and without having to defend positions that have no grounds in the word of God. One translation says, “Let the truth be like a belt around your waist.”

The “breastplate of righteousness.” The breastplate was the piece of armor that protected a soldier’s chest and abdomen and the vital organs inside. One translation says, “On your chest wear the protection of right living.” The best protection against accusations of doing wrong is to have done right! Don’t give the opponents of God’s work any grounds to thwart that work based on your conduct.

“Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” This is a reference to footwear that would allow a soldier “to face the enemy with firm-footed stability,” as one translation puts it. The “gospel of peace” is the good news that God wants peace with people, based on the reconciliation that Jesus achieved on the cross, and that God wants people to be at peace with each other on that same basis. Someone who ultimately wants peace and has good intentions can deal with conflict with a confident assurance that a hostile and hateful person cannot experience.

“The shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Soldiers would carry shields to fend off sword blows and attacks from flying weapons such as spears and arrows. As Paul observes, sometimes arrows were even set on fire before being shot at soldiers. This is a reference to the way the attacks of the devil, the evil one, have a special sting or burn to them, because the devil tries to make us believe wrong things about the character of God. But if we respond in faith, that is, implicit trust in who God is and what God wants, then those flames are extinguished.

“The helmet of salvation.” Soldiers wore helmets to protect their heads, perhaps the most vital part of their bodies. They certainly could not fight if they could not see or hear or think. The word “salvation” can be understood in the sense of “deliverance,” meaning that we must ultimately count on God to deliver us, and when we do, we will see his power working to do that. But “salvation” could also be understood in the sense of being saved from sin and being forgiven by God. One translation says, “The covering for your head is that you have been saved from the punishment of sin.”

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This means the Bible. It has often been noted that this is the only offensive piece of the “full armor of God.” All the others are defensive. They protect us so that we can carry on our mission of advancing God’s purposes in the world. And we see here that we advance those purposes by knowing and applying God’s word to our situations and by proclaiming its truth and promises to those who need to hear its good news.

I hope this answers your question and gives you a better idea of what the “full armor of God” is. So now, as Paul says at the beginning of the passage in which he describes it, “Put on the full armor of God.”

Did Jesus say that Christians needed to keep the law?

Q. How should we understand this statement of Jesus: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”? How would you respond to someone who claimed that this statement meant that Christians were required keep the Mosaic Law (including circumcision, the Sabbath, dietary laws, etc.)?

I would respond, respectfully I hope, to someone who made that claim by saying that I believed they were taking the statement out of context and thus interpreting it to mean something other than it actually meant.

Jesus came teaching an inward righteousness that was based on becoming inwardly disposed to doing what God wants. Some people misunderstood him to be saying that it therefore didn’t matter what they did on the outside. So Jesus clarified his teaching. In the same passage where the statement you quote is found, he also said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

What he meant was that if a person really were motivated by an inward desire to please God, then they would actually exceed the standards specified in the law. He goes on to give examples. Such a person would not only refrain from murder, they would not hate. They would not only refrain from adultery, they would not lust. And so forth. So the main point Jesus is making in the statement you quote is that the commandments in the law pointed how people could live with one another in the way that God intended, and that he had come not to set aside those commandments and the course they set, but to help people live in that way even more authentically.

We should also observe that Jesus was speaking to his fellow Jews when he made that statement. The Jews were required to observe certain insignia (such as the ones you list, the Sabbath, the dietary laws, etc.) to show that they belonged to the people of God. When the people of God expanded, through the work of Jesus, to include non-Jews, the question arose as to whether they had to keep the law. Large parts of the New Testament are devoted to this question, and the answer is a very clear “no.” So once again, anyone who claims that this one statement by Jesus means that all Christians must obey the specific requirements of the Jewish law is taking the statement out of context and failing to appreciate its meaning within the overall message of the New Testament.

I discuss this question in greater detail in a three-part series of posts that deals specifically with the case of Sabbath observance. That series begins here:

Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? (Part 1)

Why do Judaism and Christianity not have a proper name for God?

Q. Why do currently active religions like Judaism and Christianity not give a specific name for, but refer to descriptions of God generically? Current Islam seems to have assigned the name of Allah. Current Hindu gods have names. Expired religions seem always to have used names for gods and god-men.

Because Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic, in general they do not use a proper name for God, since God does not need to be distinguished by name from other divine beings, which these religions do not believe to exist.

However, there actually is a proper name for God in the Hebrew Bible. When God sent Moses to Egypt to deliver the ancient Israelites from slavery there, Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God gave a very interesting answer to this question, saying in Hebrew, ‘ehyeh asher ‘ehyeh, or “I am who I am,” and then telling Moses to say to the Israelites: “‘Ehyeh has sent me to you.”

This may not actually have been the disclosure of a proper name at all, but the claim to be the only God who truly existed, i.e. “I am who I am, and all those other so-called gods are not.” But Moses took the phrase “I am,” expressed in the third person as “he is,” since Moses was speaking about God rather than as God, and used it as a proper name for God, Yahweh. This usage is found throughout the books of Moses or Pentateuch, as well as the rest of the Hebrew Bible, so that this name actually occurs thousands of times there.

However, in order not to violate one of the Ten Commandments, the one that said not to take this name in vain, Jews completely avoided saying it out loud. When reading aloud from the Scriptures, they would substitute the expression Adonai, “the Lord.” When vowel points were added to the consonants in the written text of the Hebrew Bible, the vowels for Adonai were put with the letters YHWH, and when the Scriptures were translated into other languages, the expression “the Lord” was used in place of the proper name. Greek translations of the Bible used the term kurios or “Lord,” and this usage is reflected in the New Testament. That is, when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, it says “the Lord” where the Old Testament says Yahweh. As a rule, English Bibles follow this same practice. They say “the Lord” wherever the name Yahweh appears, although many of them put the word “Lord” in small caps to show that it represents the name..

That is how we get the impression that Judaism and Christianity do not have a proper name for God. They do. It is actually found throughout their Scriptures. But they tend not to use it, both as an affirmation of monotheism and as a way of showing respect for the name of God.

Ancient religions, by contrast, did tend to use proper names for specific gods because they felt they had to distinguish them from other divine beings. The same would apply to Hinduism, which is a polytheistic religion. Islam, for its part, is monotheistic, but I think you are correct that the name for God in Islam, Allah, should be understood as a proper name. It actually means “the God” in Arabic, but it is treated as a name. However, I do not think that this takes anything away from the strong commitment to monotheism within Islam. After all, the basic statement of faith, the first of the five pillars of Islam, is, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” So while I am not an expert on Islam, I do believe that Muslims would say that the one true God has self-revealed to humans under this name.

When did Zipporah convert to Judaism?

Q. When did Zipporah convert to Judaism? I have not been able to find a source that would provide that information.

Zipporah was the wife of Moses. We learn early in the book of Exodus that when Moses fled from Egypt to the land of Midian, he found refuge in the home of a man named Jethro, who was a “priest of Midian.” Moses worked for him, tending his flocks in exchange for his own keep. Moses eventually married one of his daughters, Zipporah.

The Bible does not say specifically that Zipporah embraced faith in the God of Israel when she married Moses, but we do have one slight indication that she probably did so. In a passage that is admittedly strange and difficult to understand, in order to keep God from being angry with Moses, Zipporah circumcised their son Gershom. So somehow she knew that God expected this of his covenant people, and she was prepared to do it.

That is all we really have to go on. There are some things that the Bible does not tell us as much as we would like to know about. But I think we do have enough to go on to conclude that Zipporah did come to share Moses’ faith in the God of Israel.